John Tsoho, justice of the federal high court, Abuja, has reversed his order revoking OPL 245, an oil block, from Shell Nigeria Limited and Eni.
Shell and Eni had filed an application seeking the vacation of the order of interim forfeiture of OPL 245, which is considered as Nigeria’s largest oil block.
On Monday, the judge had adjourned the case to Friday after Malabu Oil and Gas filed an application to join the matter.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had got an order for the forfeiture of the oil block.
The agency had asked the court to temporarily return OPL 245 to the government while it continued its investigation of alleged corruption in the sale of the block.
But on Friday, the court reversed the order, and it also refused the application of Malabu Oil and Gas to join the matter.
In 1998, Dan Etete, who was then the minister of petroleum, had awarded the lucrative licence to Malabu, where he had stakes.
The sale to Malabu was nullified by Obasanjo in 1999 and assigned to Shell — without a public bid.
Ownership was suspiciously reverted to Malabu thereafter, leading to legal action by Shell who later resorted to negotiating directly with Etete after President Goodluck Jonathan assumed office in 2010.
A year later, the $1.3 billion deal was struck, with Malabu getting $1.1 billion from Shell and Eni to its transfer ownership, while the signature bonus was paid to Nigeria.
In the deal finally consummated in 2011, only $210 million of the $1.3 billion paid by Shell and Eni for the block went into federal government coffers as “signature bonus”.